Kindergarten

Dear Eddie,

Today you start Kindergarten.

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We have been talking about it for months. You have vacillated between super excitement to absolute tears of nervousness. Choosing a lunch box/bag was all excitement. As was picking new batman, light up, tennis shoes.

But each night for the past week and a half you have held onto me (or daddy) and cried out your anxiety and fears. Your biggest stress is that you are so afraid you will miss me and daddy. You have been going to daycare your whole life from 7:00am to almost 5pm. You are used to being away from us. BUT you have also had Brooke and Evan with you as your buddies since you were two. They even were in your preschool class last year. Now you have to move on to something new without your besties.

I can see where that is scary.

But Eddie, I know you don’t believe me, but you will be amazing in Kindergarten.  While your fears break my heart because I can so very much remember feeling anxious like that, you are such a wonderful, smart little boy.

You will easily make friends and get to know your teacher, Mr. F, quickly.  You will learn so much this year. You love reading and math and noticing things…you will get to do all those things this year!  And more!  You will sing songs and do crafts and play outside. You will learn to tie your shoes and say your phone number. You will be reading to ME by the end of the school year!

I want you to know it’s Ok to be scared and nervous. Change can be super scary. I’m changing schools this year too, remember. And I’m a little nervous too!  I have taught high school kids, mostly 11th and 12th graders for 12 years!  Now I am going to teach 8th grade. That is a little scary.  So right now? You and I are both starting new schools and we are both nervous.

And it is OK. Because at 3:45, I will be there at the door to pick you up. And we will have an hour together before daddy and Charlie get home where we can rest or have a snack or just cuddle. Whatever you need.

I could say I can’t believe you’re old enough for school and that time has flown and all that stuff, and it’s true, but the truth is, you are ready. You are not a baby or a toddler anymore.  You are a very busy five-year old boy who is in love with learning and playing.

While I’ve been a little wistful (I only teared up once…when they showed that dang video at Kindergarten orientation that said this was your first step toward graduation. Sheesh), I have been mostly just proud.

I love how you hold your head a little higher when you tell people you are going to go to Kindergarten. I love how you look up with me with your proud little smile because you are proud of yourself and you KNOW I am beaming for you too.

You got this, my Eddie Bear. You do.

And I got you. I am here when you need to cry out your fears and anxieties, yes. But I am also here to listen to all the things you have learned and all the fun you have had.

Kindergarten is the start of a whole new part of your life…one you will excel at. One you will CRUSH.

I love you so much, my Eddie.

See you after school.

Love,

Mommy

Netflix and Kindness

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Eddie and I have been talking a LOT about the new school year.  Just today we filled out a questionnaire together from his teacher. It asked Eddie all sorts of questions about what kind of kid he is and what his interests are.  One of the last questions was “what would you like me to know about you?”

Eddie said, “that I am special.”

On the parent questionnaire, it asked many of the same questions, but in more detail. In the section about what our (as parents) expectations for Kindergarten are, I put that not only do we hope that K continues to foster Eddie’s natural curiosity and wonder about reading and math and other things, but we hope he continues to be a kind, helpful leader as well.

Also today, Eddie hung out with his aunt and uncle and little cousin, Lilly which Cortney and I moved some book shelves to my classroom. When we went to pick the boys up, my sister-in-law told us how helpful and kind Eddie was with Lilly, even counting to make her laugh when she was upset earlier.

One of my favorite Eddie traits is his kindness and willingness to help out.  His compassion even shows in the sorts of movies and shows he likes to watch.

All summer he and Charlie have loved watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.  I love this show because not only does it remind me of my favorite childhood show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but because the boys sing the little jingles and refer to the show after they see it.

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Much of the show teaches manner and kindness and doing “the right thing” which Eddie has definitely taken to heart. Even when Charlie is mean to him, it takes a LOT for Eddie to hit or push back.  He just doesn’t want to hurt his little brother.s

Most of the shows Eddie chooses for he and Charlie to watch are like this: Curious George, Super Why, Arthur, and Wild Krats all show characters making good choices.

Before having to go back to school, Eddie and I had a movie “day” during Charlie’s nap. He chose The Fox and the Hound.

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This was the very first movie my mom took me to see in the movie theater when I was about Eddie’s age.  Watching it though, I don’t remember it being so dang sad. Eddie noticed too, but kept saying, “they will be friends in the end. you watch. I bet.”  And he was right.

My boy believes in kindness and doing the right thing, and I am so glad that Netflix gives us lots of choices that encourage that belief in Eddie.

9 years later

You’ve been gone 9 years today.

9 whole years.

That boggles my mind.

When I think about your diagnosis, the treatments, and the end…it hurts almost worse now than it did at the time.  At the time I was so in the situation, and such a newbie in the family. I didn’t know all the people who were throwing their arms around me and praying over me. Shedding tears that fell on my skin.

I didn’t really know you.

I have pictures and stories, but because you were diagnosed in that one year I had with you before marrying your son, you were always surrounded by friends and family. I can count on one hand the times we spent as a normal “family” in the time after Cortney and I were engaged.

But it’s more than others got.

I have never ever forgotten how lucky we were to have you at our wedding.

Every single happy moment in our lives since then have had a small ache because you were missing it.

What would your reaction have been to each pregnancy announced by your children? What about the adoption of your grandsons? How would you have comforted your children through child loss? How would you have danced with your daughter at her wedding?  Or rejoiced to see your son marry his high school sweetheart?  How proud would you have been of the graduations and degrees we are all racking up?  Your your son-in-law’s first children’s book? How would you have gotten along with your kids in-laws?  What things would you teach your grandchildren?

I can’t help but see you in my own boys.  It makes me smile and breaks my heart.

I have forgotten your voice, your laugh, even what you looked like outside of photos. But I have never forgotten the twinkle in your eye. I see it in Cortney, Cody, MacKenzie, and all of your grandkids…especially Charlie.

This morning I was lying awake thinking about how proud of Cortney you must be. He is such a wonderful dad and husband. He is handy and smart. And he is a business owner. Just like you.

Sunday we all sat on MacKenzie and Dave’s new lawn and beach and had peach pie for your birthday. I looked at each member of the family and tried to see what you would see. I got choked up. Gosh. If there is bragging in heaven, you must do it heavily.

Today I took Eddie and Charlie to the flower shop. We ordered a lovely arrangement of happy flowers to go in front of the church on Sunday in your memory. We will be on nursery duty, but I hope people enjoy them. I hope they make people smile, the way you always did.

After the flower shop, we went to the bakery (or the donut shop, as Eddie calls it). Eddie and I have been coming here on August 14 for the past three years. Today Charlie was with us. I showed them some pictures of you. Eddie asked me why you looked so different at our wedding and I explained cancer to him for the first time. I also showed him your marina photo. He said, “now THAT looks like daddy!”  That made me smile.

We sure do miss you.

Each of us differently, of course, but the pain is still there.

9 years or 900 years…I think it will still hurt.

For now we see the joy in that hurt. The pain means there was a lot of love there.

Love and laughter.

Pops - Formal - Anchorage

Internet Friends are Real and Other Lessons

I’ve been home from BlogHer for over a week and a half now and I’m still trying to figure out how to write a recap.

Ok, let’s be honest, I’m struggling to write anything.

Before BlogHer, my whole family got sick. It started with Eddie and a trip to the ER. He was burning up and was sick and scared. Turned out he had a nasty case of strep throat. Then Charlie got it. Then I got it. Then Cortney got it.

We also have this THING going on (that’s not bad, but I can’t talk about it yet).

Just before leaving, my wonderful friend, The Preacher’s Wife, dropped off homemade soup, salad, applesauce, cookies, and a nice crusty loaf of bread. I cried. I just felt so…taken care of. It sounds silly to say out loud, but other than my mom, I don’t have many women near me who just do that sort of thing.

So then the next day I left for San Jose.

My first full day there I found out Eddie was sick all over again. Or rather he was still sick. The antibiotics hadn’t taken care of it all. Cortney was worried that if Eddie didn’t get rid of his fever, his plans to go to a concert Saturday night would be thwarted. I worried because I felt guilty that Cortney was losing so many days at work (and possibly a fun night out) and I was on the other side of the country.

But something happened at the conference.

While I did spend a lot (a LOT) of time texting with Cortney about everyone’s health, I was also surrounded by women who were legitimately concerned too.

I’ve been blogging for seven years, and over that time I have heard over and over “find your tribe”. I will admit right here that I always thought that was hokey.  Wasn’t that just another way of telling women to find their blogger “clique”?  What was this? High school?  I wasn’t in any “tribe” in high school and I wasn’t going to start now. I just get along with everyone…or almost everyone.

Just over a year ago I found myself in a blogger tribe. A group of women who where, at first, my go-to for all things internet and writing. But as we all communicated, it became so much more. Since we are all personal bloggers, personal stuff gets intertwined in the discussion about blogging. We have been there for intense high moments (births, graduations, etc) and horrible lows (pregnancy loss, deaths in the family, divorce, etc).

Many of these women were at BlogHer. Whenever they saw me, the first thing out of their mouths was always, “how are  you? Is everything Ok with the boys? How is the THING?” I felt loved and cared for even though I was worried and exhausted from stupid jet lag.

And that extended to the rest of the conference too. It was smaller this year than in the past years I went and I liked that.

Every presentation I went to from Jenny Lawson to Kerry Washington, from Tig Notaro to all the 10×10′s, and especially the VOTY (which is my #1 reason for wanting to be there in the first place, I felt this mad supportive vibe. The conference was intimate and more intense than ever. Over and over I felt the message was TELL YOUR STORY. TELL IT.

And the stories we heard: hilarious, heart-wrenching, horrible.

I tried to say hi to everyone that I know online if I saw them, but I know I missed a few.

I didn’t feel stressed out by the conference this year because there weren’t a zillion things going on at once. I liked that they eliminated all the outside parties and events and kept everything close.

I was a little bummed by the food choices. I mean, I get that we were in California, but a side salad is not a meal, yo. As Homer Simpson says, “You don’t make friends with salad.” And of course, as usual, the water/beverage situation was lacking. I will say breakfast was yum though. #baconrules

But in the grand scheme of it all, those are minor complaints.

Overall BlogHer was what I needed. I needed to hear those stories and be encouraged to tell mine. I needed to be reminded of the greatness of being a blogger…of being a personal blogger.

Voice matters.

And the voices of my friends were loud and clear: you matter to us, Katie.

In the span of two weeks I experienced something that I never really did before: women taking care of women just because it’s the kind thing to do. Because it’s how we hope our fellow sisters will treat us.

My blogging “tribe”, The Preacher’s Wife, and so many others just praying and helping where they can.

It’s a gift to realize you are loved.

I spend a lot of time an energy thinking about how I am not good at female friendships, but the past few weeks have proven to me that I don’t suck at them either.

just a few of the women who I call my friends. Photo credit: Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life

just a few of the women who I call my friends. Photo credit: Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life

Netflix for Learning

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When Eddie was 3 months old and I was going back to work after maternity leave, Cortney was laid off from work. Cort spent his days being a stay at home dad, looking for work, and watching documentaries on Netflix. So many documentaries. And the topic really didn’t matter to him. He would watch films on subjects such as beer as well as fonts.

You think I’m kidding. He totally watched a documentary called Helvetica. Yes, it was almost 3 hour devoted to the history of a FONT.

He’s not the only one who loves to mix some learnin’ in with his TV watchin’. I’ve been known to camp out in front of Modern Marvel marathons myself. Remember when channels like History actually had shows about history of stuff on it?  Ah the good old days…thank goodness for Netflix!

I was going to try to list for you the documentaries Netflix has available, but then I spent almost 30 minutes falling down the rabbit hole of what is available and wanting to see about 50 of them.

So instead I’ll tell you the learning stuff the boys love.

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We went through a pretty heavy Busytown Mysteries phase here in Sluiter Nation. It was the go-to bedtime show. Recently Eddie and Charlie discovered The Magic School Bus which brings back fond memories for me.  I never watched the show, but my brothers had a lot of the books and when I babysat them, I read those books over and over. I think my mom still has them at her house.  I should try to find them.

As I type this, it is nap time for Charlie, and Eddie is watching Turtle: The Incredible Journey.  He claimed to know everything about turtles, but he is pretty entranced in watching all those baby turtles book it off the beach to the sea.

So you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to shut down my computer now and watch about the lives of turtles with Eddie.

Share some documentaries or learning shows you and your family love!

crack the door

I started going to the chiropractor this summer (which is a whole post in and of itself). I’ve got the routine down pat: Go in the exam room, take off clothes from the waist up, put on gown, crack the door so the doctor knows you’re ready. There is even a little sign that reminds us: “Female patients: crack the door about a half inch when you are ready”.

I wondered a little bit what would happen if I forgot to crack the door. Would I just sit there waiting and waiting? Would someone knock? Or would it be up to me to open the door to let the doctor in?

Closed doors are sort of the international sign for “go away,” aren’t they?

When I don’t want anyone disturbing my class, I shut the door.

When Eddie and Charlie are not available to play with the neighbor kids, we shut the garage door.

When we need privacy in the bathroom, we shut the door.

When we want to keep someone out, we shut the door. When we are ready to have visitors, we open it.

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I don’t think I ever really shut my heart to God, but I did close it far enough that the “crack” was barely visible. At least to human eyes. In all my youthful questioning, the door was never really shut. It was later, when loss seemed to be our new way of life that I started bumping the door to almost shut.

When Cortney lost his job, Eddie was 3 months old and colicky, and I was suffering from depression and anxiety, the door was as good as closed. I hadn’t pushed it all the way to latching, but I wanted nothing to do with a God who would take away so much from me and my family. One who seemed to want nothing but pain and hurt to wave over us.

If ever I was going to shut my heart’s door, it was then.

But for some reason I didn’t actually give it that last push. I didn’t allow it to latch.

And even though it appeared to everyone–including myself–that my heart was closed to church and God and anything having to do with religion, God knew it wasn’t really closed.

Over the past nine months, I’ve cracked my heart’s door. I’ve allowed some light to pour through. I’ve cautiously opened myself to new relationships with people, church, and Jesus.

That is not to say that I’ve flung my door wide open and am swaying to praise music with my arms in the air. No. I have questions. I have doubts. I wonder how my political and social views fit with the theology of the church.

I remain cautious as I continue to learn and grow in this newish faith. I carefully watch and listen as I am told that the church is called to be one, but to embrace diversity of all kinds. Disagreement doesn’t mean you’re kicked out.

So I have cracked the door to my heart to let the light in a little because I am ready.

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Don’t forget to join me tomorrow (Tue, July 15) at 8pm est for a twitter party with Imagine Toys! Follow #ImagineToys and learn about blogging opps, possibly win prizes, and have fun!

Imagine the Possibilities

One of Eddie’s favorite birthday gifts was a “sidewalk art” themed gift from his aunt MacKenzie and uncle Dave. It included sidewalk chalk, sidewalk paint, and sidewalk tattoos. There are two reasons he loves this gift: 1) it was artsy and he loves all things arts and crafts and 2) it was an outdoor activity.

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If it’s possible, Charlie likes outdoor play even more than Eddie does. As soon as he gets up in the morning he asks if we can go “houtside”. And once he’s “houtside”, just try to get him to come in.  Seriously.

"Charlie, it's time to come in." "no."

“Charlie, it’s time to come in.”
“no.”

It’s good though, this love of play–and outdoor play, specifically. My kids are getting fresh air, exercise, and a stretch of their imaginations. They run and laugh and make believe.

This is probably why partnering with Imagine Toys was so natural for me. All of their toys promote interactive family play and big imaginations! Their Kaboom! Collection is cool because it promotes outdoor play as well. Plus 8% of each Kaboom! toy sale goes to bringing outdoor play to the lives of all American children.

Imagine is also a small, women-run business and local to me here in Michigan (Battle Creek to be exact).  It’s like we were made to go together. Like peas and carrots.

Part of my working with them means that they are sending me to BlogHer in San Jose, California in a week and a half (I’ll be the hottie with the Imagine Toys gear on).

While I’m there I’ll be armed with some goodies for bloggers who are seriously interested in working with Imagine Toys. Have I piqued your interest? Want to know more?

GOOD!

Tuesday, July 15, I will be hosting a twitter party talking all about Imagine Toys, Kaboom, and how to get involved. I also get to giveaway FIVE sweet prizes:

 

I KNOW you want to join me, yes?

So mark your calendar for Tuesday, July 15th at 8pm EST and follow me (@ksluiter), Imagine Toys (@imaginetoys), and the #ImagineToys hashtag.  We will have a fun discussion about playing and toys and you can learn more about being an Imagine Toys Blogger…and maybe win something!

See you there!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I was not compensated for writing this post nor will I be compensated for the twitter party. Imagine Toys is sending me to BlogHer as a brand ambassador. US bloggers only are eligible for prizes and blogging partnerships. 

upgrading, yo.

Next week Cortney and I will be eligible for new phones per Verizon.

In normal people world that date might come and go and as they notice their phones getting slow and doggish they wonder, “huh, maybe I can get an upgrade?”

In Sluiter Nation where the tech geeks roam that date is on the dang calendar because NEW TECHNOLOGY AND GADGETS AND WEEEE!!!!

And to be fair I started crabbing about my Galaxy S3 being a dog a couple months ago. A couple updates made it better, but still. I get stabby when my stuff is slow.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I got to tour the new Verizon Smart Store and I got to talking to their PR about what nerds Cortney and I are and they offered to send me a couple devices just to try out. Even said I didn’t have to blog about them, but hey…I’m a nerd, so I’m sharing them with you.

Cortney and I were pretty sure we were going to upgrade to the S5, but Verizon sent me the HTC One to try out. I was skeptical.

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My first thought when I took it out of the box was “holy cats! It’s so big!”

It is just as thin (if not thinner) than my S3, but the screen is much bigger. The week or so that I used it I realized quickly I would need a case for it because it kept sliding out of my hand because it’s so shiny and new and slippery!

HTC One on the left, Cortney's S3 on the right.

HTC One on the left, Cortney’s S3 on the right.

It’s quite slick.

I liked quickness of everything (which I suspect the S5 will have too since my S3 is dying a slow, obsolete technology death), it’s interface (which was extremely similar to the Samsungs), and the weight.

My favorite part was the interactive home screen that I had Weather Channel, CNN, and other news feeds go to. I could check out all the news from the home screen of my phone! But with one swipe to the side, my home screen could also be a traditional one with all the apps on a background picture of my boys.

I like it.  I still want to check out the S5, but know I know there are some super great phones out there other than Samsung ones.

We also got to play with try out a Bose Soundlink Mini.

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I saw these when I was on the store tour, and I asked about them because Cortney and I had talked about getting a wireless speaker of some sort that we could use with phones or whatever.  Neither of us have tons of music on our phones currently because we never use it, but if we had a speaker we might.

This little speaker is amazing. In Cort’s words, “It really bumps!” For being so tiny that little sucker sure emits a LOT of sound.  Quality sound.

And it’s portable! We set it on it’s little charging station and then we could connect it via bluetooth (which means we could connect it to our computers as well as our phones) to Cortney’s phone. In no time, the Black Keys were serenading our dinner. And we could easily move it around because hello, lack of wires.

We immediately saw the potential for garage tunes, lawn tunes, and patio tunes.

So besides new phones next week, I’m pretty sure Cortney is going to start budgeting for one of these bad boys too.

Speaking of those phones…what do you have? Do you love it? I’m still leaning toward the S5, but I want to hold it and make sure, ya know?

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Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. I was sent the technology to experience with no requirement of needing to blog about it. I just did because I like to know what you think. Tech geeks unite, yo.

 

 

We’re On Each Other’s Team

Cortney and I have a really great relationship and strong marriage. It’s one of the things I am most proud of in this world and feel so grateful that such a wonderful friend ended up as my life partner.

We get asked a lot what they secret to our marriage is and if it’s really as awesome as we make it look online.

As someone who as dated her fair share of turds (and nice guys, but mostly turds), I wasn’t sure if there really was a guy out there who could make me feel like we were a true team.  Then Cortney and I found ourselves together.

I guess our secret is our teamwork.

There are other factors like that we are true friends, we have our own interests as well as shared interests, etc, but the big thing is teamwork.

And most of the time it’s as awesome as we make it look on social media.

Anyway, I am writing about that teamwork over at Mommy Miracles today. I’d be honored if you would give it a read.

Off He Goes

Dear Eddie,

When you were  a tiny baby some of the best advice I was given was by your pediatrician. She said, “You can’t make a baby eat or sleep, and you can’t make a toddler potty train until he’s ready. Let him take the lead.”

I’ll admit it’s hard for me to let someone else take the lead. I like to be in charge. When we had you, we were no longer in charge…the little charge we thought we had. You ruled our days and nights. You chose when you would hit your milestones.

You cried and wouldn’t sleep.

You cried and cried and cried.

But when you were ready to sleep, you did.

You decided.

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You still require one of us to lay by you each night after we read with you. You say you an’t sleep without us there so you can feel safe. I’ll take that because I know that one day, you will tell me I can go upstairs. That you’re “good”.

But sleeping in a big boy bed took zero transition.  We brought home a mattress before Grandpa even had your bed made and you requested to take your nap there.  You never went back to your crib again.

You decided.

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It was the same way with your pacifier.

You held onto that thing even when it had holes in it and we refused to buy you new ones.  Then, your friend Evan told you about the paci fairy and you started to think that getting a big boy present in return for turning in your “pipey” was a good thing.

You decided.

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Then came potty training.

We thought for sure we could get you potty trained before Charlie arrived.  You showed interest right after you turned two, and you were doing your number 2′s on the toilet almost exclusively.  Then Charlie came and you stopped caring about underpants or sticker charts or anything.

Until Althea showed up to daycare in big girl panties.  And she is a full year younger than you are. You looked right at Renae and declared yourself done with diapers.

And that was that.

You decided.

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Now you are five. You’ve been riding a bike since you were two. Your grandma bought you a tiny one from a garage sale (ok, the garage sale we were hosting), and you hopped on and took to it like a fish in water.

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For your fourth birthday, we had to upgrade because  your legs grew about a mile from age three to age four.

In fact, we felt bad that you had to wait until almost the end of June because you were really just way too big for your old pal.

033This bike is a much better fit.

In fact, this bike quite easily takes you from our house up the hill to Kaydance and Carter’s house and back again.  It has taken you around the block with us as well.

You love your yellow bike.

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Early this summer, daddy asked you if you wanted to take your training wheels off.  You were a bit scared, but he helped you balance and learn to ride just through the grass.

But riding on the street seemed a little too scary. So daddy raised the wheels as far as they would go, and you kept riding. You weren’t even five yet, so we figured you would do it when you were ready, just like everything else.

Then one day, you came screaming down the hill at top speed on Carter’s bike.

Carter who is a whole year younger than you had his training wheels taken off a month ago.

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Carter came behind on your bike.

Out of breath, you ran up to daddy, “DID YOU SEE ME? NO TRAINING WHEELS!  Can you take mine off too?”

And then off you went.

You decided.

Daddy took them off, gave you a few quick reminders about safety, and off you went. I felt like I blinked and you went from a mushy baby to a kid riding a two-wheeler with the neighbor kids.

I stood there for a second watching you peddle off wondering how it all happened. Didn’t I get some sort of say about when you were ready for things? Isn’t that what part of parenting is?

You are teaching me so much about this parenting gig, Eddie.

You will do things on your own time, when you are ready, and I will always be there to cheer for you.

Love,

Mom

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Recently I was interviewed by Working Motherhood and my podcast is now live!  Go give me a listen!

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